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Winter weather hits South Dakota Tuesday; conditions expected to linger

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C.J. Keene
/
SDPB

Much of the state is affected by high winds and heavy precipitation, though the scene isn’t the same across the state.

Matthew Bunkers is the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service office in Rapid City. He said this is the fifth December blizzard in the area since 1996.

“Clearly, they aren’t a common occurrence, when we look at blizzards overall for Rapid City proper since 1996, we’ve had 15," Bunkers said. "So, roughly about every other year on average.”

Bunkers laid out the scope of the storm.

“It’s covering a lot of real estate," Bunkers said. "In terms of the weather its producing right now we have tornado warnings in the Dallas area, which is on the far southern end of the storm, then we have snow and freezing rain, ice pelts covering essentially from Nebraska, eastern Colorado, all the way up through North Dakota, and obviously across South Dakota, so it’s covering a pretty large area.”

At the NWS office in Aberdeen, meteorologist Kari Fleegel says the storm system is gradually making its way east.

“Well, we got a mix of all different types of weather in central and eastern South Dakota already," Fleegel said. "Several locations around the Watertown area up through Webster have received a quarter to a half an inch of freezing rain that’s been coating the ground and trees in ice. Right around the Missouri River many locations have primary just seen snow this morning which is starting to accumulate to three to five inches so far.”

Fleegel says roads will be impacted by the weather and reminded drivers to keep an emergency kit in their vehicle if they plan on traveling.

The Department of Transportation closed I-90 west of Chamberlain Tuesday. A no travel advisory is in effect for many other state highways.

If you were hoping Tuesday's winter weather was a one-off, state meteorologists have some bad news.

“The thing to keep in mind is the storm is slow moving, so we’ll keep these strong northwest winds, and if you don’t have them yet eventually, they’ll pick up," Bunkers said. "There will be times when its gusting over 50 miles an hour especially out on the open plains.”

Bunkers said there’s no relief after the storm either.

“It’s going to get really cold after this storm moves out, especially toward the end of the weekend," Bunkers said. "Some places are going to see lows well below zero next week by Sunday morning, and then highs next week in some places will start to get about zero. So, its not just the storm and the snow and the wind now, but when that’s done its going to get cold.”

Fleegel said a similar story is in store for East River.

“Temperatures are going to cool off as we head into Thursday, we’re gonna see some of the lighter fluffy snow – but it’s just going to be darn cold the next few days," Fleegel said. "In fact, highs which will be to be hovering freezing through Wednesday are just going to start to fall.”

Fleegel says there will likely be little snowmelt over the coming days and recommends removing snow and ice as soon as safe to do so.

Weather resources

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.
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